Perhaps unsurprisingly for an album that emerged from an abandoned feature-film (Carousel), Plastic Beach comes with plenty of the parts, but less of the unifying vision that made Demon Days such a wonderful journey. Albarn’s ecological concerns are obvious, at times making Plastic Beach more like an electro update of The Good, The Bad & The Queen (Damon letting that wonderfully soulful voice free on the title track and To Binge), as opposed to DD’s natural successor. What’s often less clear are the specifics.
Monkey, too, shadows the project, Albarn’s oriental learnings bleeding into White Flag, while Monkey Bee infuses Glitter Freeze and a wasted turn from Mark E Smith. The Fall’s frontman replaces Shaun Ryder’s superlative DARE appearance on an album that pretty much uses its guest spots to replicate Demon Days’ turns to less effect: Lou Reed stutter-drawls, Snoop Dogg does his laconic thing and Gruff Rhys is as beautiful as ever on Superfast Jellyfish – his influence seeping through on the SFA-lite of Melancholy Hill, while Stylo flies close to the Neon Neon wind. You wouldn’t even know Paul Simonon and Mick Jones were reuniting, however, just by listening to the title track itself.
What Albarn’s trying to get across is that, like pre-packaged food, pre-packaged X Factorendorsed music just isn’t nourishing. But, while very nice and, indeed, wonderful in places, Plastic Beach doesn’t quite keep us full either.